Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson stand above the pack among left tackle prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft. All three players are projected to be selected in the Top 10, and each arguably could have been the top prospect at his position in years past. An uncommon number of top-end players combined with a sharp dropoff to the next best tackle prospect (Menelik Watson doesn't fall until No. 27 to the Houston Texans) makes 2013 a year ripe for trades. Lance Zierlein of the The Sideline View guaranteed that an NFL team will trade up into the Top 10 of this year's draft for a left tackle. So who are this year's most likely trade partners?
Help wanted: Dolphins, Chargers, Saints
The San Diego Chargers (No. 11), Miami Dolphins (No. 12) and New Orleans Saints (No. 15) are all in desperate need of starting left tackles, and all three teams are in a reasonable position to trade up.
The Dolphins arguably lost the most this offseason when former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long signed with the St. Louis Rams. Miami has 11 selections in this year's draft, so it's no surprise that they have been mentioned as a team that could move up for a while now.
The Chargers are also reportedly open to a trade. The team released Jared Gaither this offseason just one year into a four-year contract after the big left tackle struggled to stay on the field due to injuries. The team needs to make a move or else try to roll with King Dunlap protecting Philip Rivers next season. San Diego has just seven picks in this year's draft however, so the cost of trading up would be significantly more than it would be for Miami.
Ditto for the Saints, who have just five selections in the 2013 draft. Without a second round pick, they will have a difficult time convincing anyone in the Top 10 to move down to No. 15. Charles Brown or Jason Smith are projected to compete for the starting left tackle job now that Jermon Bushrod has moved to Chicago.
Willing trade partners: Chiefs, Jaguars, Browns
The Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns may be better off parlaying their top picks into more selections later, given their needs at multiple positions. None of three are desperate for left tackles.
Though it is unclear how long the Chiefs plans to continue their relationship with Branden Albert, he is signed on to be the team's starting left tackle through the 2013 season. After trading for Alex Smith, they have no need for a quarterback, either. Kansas City has been open about wanting to get out of the No. 1 overall pick, and they could find plenty of suitors willing to jump at the chance of getting Joeckel.
The Jaguars have been projected to go a number of different directions with the No. 2 overall pick, so it may make sense to trade down and pick up an extra pick or two to cover more team needs. The SB Nation blog Big Cat Country speculated that the Dolphins could be willing to make a swap. The jump from No. 11 would be a big one for Miami, but the organization has been one of the more aggressive teams in the NFL this offseason.
The Browns, however, may be the most likely team to trade out of the Top 10. In fact, Cleveland was projected to trade out of the No. 6 overall spot with the Dolphins in SB Nation's latest mock draft. Matthew Fairburn said that the move seemed like "the most-obvious trade in the first round," and would still allow the Browns to select a top-notch cornerback in Xavier Rhodes:
The benefit the Browns have of trading down to the 12th pick is that they can still land a top cornerback, or even a tight end like Tyler Eifert. In this scenario, they can take Rhodes, the second-best cornerback in the draft this year. If he doesn't work out at corner, the Browns desperately need a safety next to TJ Ward and Rhodes would fit.
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